Chris Buescher Tops RFK Racing 1-2 In Daytona; Martin Truex Jr. Crowned Regular Season Championby Hunter Thomas August 27, 2023 1 comment
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chris Buescher was pushed to victory by RFK Racing owner and teammate, Brad Keselowski in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. was also crowned the Regular Season champion after missing last year’s NASCAR Playoffs.
Leading the RFK Racing one-two, Buescher visited Victory Lane for the third time this season, marking a career high for the Texas native. Buescher only has five career victories, and three of them have come in the past five races. The RFK Racing No. 17 team is really hitting their stride as now the NASCAR Playoffs are on the horizon.
“Yeah, unbelievable at this point,” Buescher said. “Yeah, there’s been a lot going on. Certainly talked about it after even Richmond itself, but surely after Michigan. Talked about kind of hitting our momentum at the right time. This is another big step in the right direction.”
Buescher enters the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs seeded in fourth. While not only the team, but the entire organization has momentum heading into the final 10 races of the season, Buescher believes there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to compete for this year’s championship.
“I think we’re a contender,” Buescher said. “We still have work to do. I don’t think we’re under the illusion that says it has to go through us and us only right now. We’ve got tracks we still need to be better at. We’ve got work to do as a group and as a team to get in the hunt. I surely feel confident about our ability to drive through the Playoffs and feel like we can certainly be a contender in this thing.”
Bossman, Keselowski certainly didn’t want to be the first loser, but to earn the RFK Racing’s first one-two in many years was a huge accomplishment for the organization. Since Keselowski became one of three owners of the organization, the teams have begun getting back to their winning days from the 2000s and 2010s.
“Just a really great day for RFK,” Keselowski said. “A few weeks we were sitting down, kind of going over the goal and visions, what we value. One of the things we brought up was 1-2 finishes. It’s been a long time since this company has had 1-2 finishes. I can’t stay say a specific date.
“Of course, I wanted to be the one on the front of that. Proud nonetheless of Chris and his efforts and both teams, where they’ve grown and come together. Doing all the right things to grow us and to just take us to that next level.”
Aric Almirola finished third as Ford swept the first three finishing positions.
Chase Elliott had a strong fourth-place finish, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make this year’s Playoffs. Due to missing seven races for an injury and suspension, this season will mark the first in Elliott’s fulltime career where he didn’t advance to the NASCAR Playoffs. On the final lap, Elliott had an opportunity to compete for the win, but he and Kevin Harvick just couldn’t hook up and keep speed with the RFK Racing teammates.
“I thought we all worked really well together tonight,” Elliott said. “Obviously we came up a little short, but nonetheless – I hate the way the season has gone, but proud to get the car into the owner’s championship. It’s a big deal to get in on the owner’s side, so hopefully we’ll try and go make some noise on that front, and just keep progressing and pushing to be better for next year. We’ll be better through all of this down the road.”
Joey Logano rounded out the top-five, followed by Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Kevin Harvick and Corey LaJoie.
Martin Truex Jr. was crowned the 2023 Regular Season champion with a 24th-place finish. Throughout the season, Truex won three races and earned nine top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. He also won six stages. The performance is a huge comeback from missing last year’s Playoffs.
“It feels great,” Truex said. “Obviously at the beginning of the year you set out to be the best. For the regular season championship, it’s a huge deal, the 15 points that come along with it are very, very important for the Playoffs.
“Just really proud of my team. Thankful to turn it around from last year, missing the Playoffs, to being here tonight is a big deal for all of us. Thankful to all our partners and everybody that makes this happen. Hopefully we can keep this going throughout the Playoffs.”
On Saturday, Truex won Stage 1, and Keselowski won Stage 2.
There were 22 lead changes among 17 drivers. Chase Briscoe led a race high of 67 laps.
Throughout the race, there were only second cautions for accidents.
The first caution for an accident came on Lap 96, and it included 12 drivers. The chain reaction occurred, when contact from Christopher Bell sent his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Ty Gibbs into Ryan Blaney, who was then hooked and went head-on into the outside wall in Turn 4.
“I didn’t see much,” Blaney said. “I saw a big white thing that I was headed towards at a rapid mile per hour and then it was over. I guess the 20 (Bell) kind of got Ty in a weird spot it looked like and just got into my right-rear and off she went. It stinks to end our night that way. We had a fast car and definitely stinks, but we’ll go to next week.”
The most notable crash occurred on Lap 161, and it was a scary one, too. Ryan Preece’s car got airborne and violently flipped many times through the backstretch grass. Preece climbed from the car under his own power but was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center that’s located just down the road from the track. He was discharged early Monday morning and appears to be good to compete this upcoming weekend at Darlington at the current moment.
Advancing to the NASCAR Playoffs include William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell, Rickt Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace.
Up next, the NASCAR Cup Series will visit Darlington Raceway for the Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday, September 3. Live coverage will broadcast on USA at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Mitchell White/TheFourthTurn.com